Posted December 8, 2022
Cities in western Wisconsin are preparing themselves for an expensive winter season when it comes to snow removal. Inflation and higher fuel costs are among factors facing public works officials.
Snowy winters are a fact of life in western Wisconsin, and they come with their own list of challenges. Whether to enjoy some outdoor activities or as an excuse to stay locked up inside with a blanket and book, Wisconsinites have adapted to the conditions and found their own ways to go about life in such a harsh environment.
According to worldpopulationreview.com, “Wisconsin is the tenth-snowiest state in the U.S., averaging about 45.79 inches of snow per year.” However, some years snowfalls can be far larger than others. For example, according to the Wisconsin State Climatology Office, the 2018-19 snow season was one of the largest in the state’s recorded history, coming in at 77.2 inches, over a 40% increase when compared to the average.
One of the largest expenses that Wisconsin cities face when it comes to winter is, of course, snow removal, which includes everything from the personnel and plow trucks to salt, sand and fuel. However, as many are aware, this past year has seen a drastic increase in inflation and large price hikes in oil. Take, for example, the city of New Richmond, which in 2022 had a snow removal budget of roughly $46,000, but is now facing these increased prices.
“We are prepared as we’re budgeting more money to offset those costs,” said Rob Weldon, New Richmond’s public works operations manager. “We’ve increased our fuel budget and our overall snow and ice control budget. So 2023, we’re upwards of $70,000.”
Weldon explained that due to increased prices as well as internal adjustments, the city’s snow and ice control budget will increase by nearly 35% from 2022 to 2023.
A similar statement was made by Mike Stifter, public works director for the city of River Falls, who foresees similar increases.
“I will bet we definitely are factoring in a 30%-plus increase,” he said. “So again, maybe not double, but a 30 to 50% would not surprise me if we’re to look back on the annual budgets that there is probably a bit of an increase to account for.”
For 2021-2022, River Falls budgeted $435,556 for snow removal.
For Weldon and Stifter, who have been working in the public works sector for quite some time, it is basically impossible to predict the outcome of any winter. This makes it even more difficult to pinpoint budgetary needs when it comes to snow removal. However, even with these budgetary obstacles, the plows will still be out in full force, making sure that roads are clear this winter.